Francis Olaer

Fortitude and faith

By  Francis Olaer, Youth Speak News
  • November 30, 2012

It is all too easy for young people seeking acceptance and recognition to be attracted by the glitz and glamour of a pleasure-seeking lifestyle. The idea of sainthood or even martyrdom at a young age seems unfathomable and difficult to comprehend. Why suffer for an idea?

In October, a 17-ye ar-old Filipino boy, who died more than 300 years ago, was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI amid the cheers and prayers of the faithful in St. Peter’s Square. St. Pedro Calungsod lived a short but meaningful life, which took him from his homeland, the Philippines, to the isle of Guam, where he was impaled by a spear after baptizing the village chief ’s infant daughter.

In light of St. Pedro Calungsod devoting his life to Catholic principles and paying the ultimate sacrifice, the Pope declared that despite the hardships and persecution missionaries faced, “Pedro, however, displayed deep faith and charity and continued to catechize his many converts, giving witness to Christ by a life of purity and dedication to the Gospel. Uppermost was his desire to win souls for Christ, and this made him resolute in accepting martyrdom.”

As a Catholic student trustee, it is all too common for my colleagues and me to face a degree of resistance in our mandate to preserve Catholicity in our school boards. I am a Filipino-Canadian and with the Wellington Catholic District School Board having an all-Filipino group of student trustees this year, the memory and example of St. Pedro Calungsod is all too present in our daily efforts to promote Catholicity, keeping in mind that we too are unworthy in the eyes of God.

Just as in St. Pedro Calungsod’s time, many people today are apprehensive about the Catholic faith and its perceived “restrictive” doctrines. At my high school, a teacher said she believes that “there is a danger of other students judging a student for showing more attention to God than social life,” and that this is derived from entertainment and media.

“The schools do what they can to promote the Catholic faith but at the end of the day, students are often driven by external influences,” she said.

The memory of the debate in Ontario earlier this year over gay-straight alliance clubs reminds me of how I and others were mocked by some of our fellow students for defending the Catholic Church. Labels such as “homophobic” and “bigot” were all too commonly applied in those turbulent months to student leaders loyal to their faith. But like St. Pedro Calungsod, some student leaders continue to be open about their faith.

“I could care less about what other people think about me and my Catholic faith,” said one.

“Catholic social justice and youth groups stand up for various issues like the pro-life movement,” my teacher added. “I think they find the courage to stand up for what they believe in through their faith.”

Though there was persecution of Catholics at first in Guam during St. Pedro Calungsod’s time, today 85 per cent of Guam’s population professes the Catholic faith.

My hope remains that this teen saint will help Catholic youth move from contemplation to active evangelization.

(Olaer, 18, is a Grade 12 student at St. James Catholic High School.)

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